Shri Birchandra Prabhu
Shrimad Birchandra or Birabhadra Prabhu took birth within this world on the ninth day of the dark moon in the month of Kartik, which corresponds to the divine appearance day of Shri Shrimad Bhakti Raksaka Shridhar Maharaja. Shri Krishna das Kaviraja Goswami writes (CC Adi 11.8-12):
“Shri Nityananda Prabhu is the topmost branch of the indestructible tree of eternal love of Godhead, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu…From that branch grow many branches and sub-branches…After Nityananda Prabhu, the greatest branch is Birbhadra Goswami (Birchandra Prabhu)…although Birabhadra Prabhu was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He presented Himself as a great devotee. And although the Supmre Godhead is transcendental to all Vedic injunctions, He strictly followed the Vedic rituals. He is the main pillar in the hall of devotional service erected by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He knew within Himself that He acted as the Supreme Lord Vishnu, but externally He was prideless. It is by the glorious mercy of Shri Birchandra Prabhu that people all over the world now have the chance to chant the names of Chaitanya and Nityananda. I therefore take shelter of the lotus feet of Shri Birchandra Prabhu so that by His mercy my great desire to write Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita will be properly guided.”
In his anubhashya commentary on Chaitanya Charitamrita, Shri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura describes the life of Birchandra Prabhu. He writes that Birchanrda Prabhu, also known as Virabhadra Goswami was the son of Nityananda Prabhu and the disciple of Jahnava Mata. He was born from the womb of Shri Vasudha, Nityananda Prabhu’s other wife. In the Gaura-Ganodesha-Dipika, he is mentioned as an incarnation of Kshirodakshayi Vishnu as follows: sankarshanashya yo vyuha, payobdhishayi-namakah, sa eva virachandro’bhu-chaitanya-abhinna vigraha: ” Shri Sankarshan Dev expands Himself as Kshirodakshayi Vishnu. His avatara is Birchandra Prabhu. He is nondifferent from Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in that he is Vishnu-tattva, God Himself.” In a village of the name Jhamatapura in the district of Hugali, Birchandra Prabhu had a disciple named Yadundanacharya, who had two daughters—his own daughter by birth, Shrimati, and a foster daughter named Narayani. Both these daughters married Birchandra. The marriage of Birchandra Prabhu has been mentioned in the Bhakti Ratnakara of Shri Narahari Chakravarti Thakura as follows:
“Near Rajabol Hatta is Jhamatpura. Shri Jahnava Mata went there to the temple of one of her disciples. There, lived the brahmana Yadunandan Acharya. By the mercy of Shri Jahanva Mata he was endowed with great devotion. Yadunandana had a wife named Lakshmi. It was said that she was a pure and highly religous wife. They had two daughters—Shrimati and Narayani. Their bodily beauty was wonderful beyond compare. Upon the wish of Jahnava Mata that fortunate brahman gave his two daughters to be wed to Birchandra Prabhu.”
Shri Yadunandana Acharya was a disciple of Birchandra Prabhu. Shrimati and Narayani were given mantra initiation by Jahnava Mata. Shri Vasudha’s daughter was Gangadevi. She was an avatar of Gangadevi herself. She was wed to Shri Madhava Acharya, who was an avatara of Shantanu Maharaja. The Mahabharat celebrates Shantanu Maharaja, the father of Bhishmadev in Dwapara-yuga, as the husband of Gangadevi herself. Madhava Acharya was a great devotee who was deep in Krishna-prema.
On the order of his mother, Shri Birchandra Prabhu made a pilgrimage to Shri Vrindavana Dhama. First he visited the home of Uddharana Datta Thakura in Saptagrama. Uddharana Datta Thakura’s son, Shrinivasa Datta Thakura greeted Birchandra Prabhu with a respectful reception, and Birchandra Prabhu stayed there for two days. From there, he went to Shantipura where he visited the house of Shri Advaita Acharya. Advaita Acharya’s son Shri Krishna Mishra cordially welcomed Birchandra Prabhu with a full reception, and there was sankirtan, in which everyone was drowned by the sweet waves of the holy name. From there, Birchandra Prabhu went to Ambika Kalna, where he visited the home of Shri Gauridasa Pandit. Shri Hridaya Chaitanya Prabhu met him there with great warmth and affection. From Ambika Kalna Birchandra Prabhu went to Nabadwipa dhama to the house of Shri Jagannatha Mishra. Seeing the son of Nityananda Prabhu, all the followers of Shri Chaitanya who were present there were overjoyed, and welcomed him with great happiness. There he stayed for two days, after which he traveled on to Shri Khanda. There he was met by Shri Raghuanndana and Shri Kanai Thakura who received him affectionately and embraced him. After staying there for some time, he continued on to Yajigrama to visit the house of Shrinivasa Acharya. With great devotion, Shrinivasa Acharya offered puja to Shri Birchandra Prabhu, knowing him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There he stayed for some days, and there was a great sankirtan festival there. After this, Birchandra Prabhu went on to Kanthak Nagara, near Katwa, where Mahaprabhu took sannyasa. After staying there for a day, he continued on to Badhuri Gram, where he arrived at the house of Govinda Kaviraja. With great devotion, the advanced Vaishnava, Govinda Kaviraja gave him a respectful reception and worshiped him with puja. Being very please with his great devotion, Birchandra Prabhu stayed at his house for two days. After this, he visited Kheturi Gram, the hometown of Narottama Thakura. This is all recorded in the Bhaktiratnakara: “To increase Shri Narottama Thakura’s bliss beyond measure, That important branch of the Shri Chaitanya tree, Shri Birchandra Prabhu came to Kheturi Gram. danced in sankirtan. At that time, countless people came to see Shri Birchandra Prabhu, who is Vishnu Himself.”
After staying in Kheturi Gram for some days in a great festival of sankirtan, Birchandra Prabhu continued on his way to Vrindavana. By his influence, many sinners and atheists were delivered on the path. When he reached Vrindavana, being informed of his auspicious arrival, and wishing to welcome him as soon as he arrived, the important devotees in Vrindavan waited for him on the road. These devotees were all great souls, and included Shri Jiva Goswami, Shrimad Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami, as well as Shri Ananta Acharya and Shri Hari dasa Pandita, who were Shri Gadadhara Pandit’s disciples and the pujaris of the deity of Shri Madana-Mohan. Shri Krishna Dasa Brahmachari, Shri Gopinatha Adhikari, and Shri Madhu Pandita were also there, as was the pujari of Shri Gopinatha, Bhavananda. Kashishvara and his disciples Shri Govinda Goswami (the pujari of Shri Govinda in Vridnavan) and Shri Yadava Acharya were also there as well as many others.
Bhakti Ratnakara says, “Everyone came out to see Birchandra Prabhu, and all the residents of Vrindavana were delighted to take His darshan. There was no one who was not overwhelmed by the seeing the manner of ecstatic bhakti exhibited by Birchandra Prabhu. He sang of the superlative qualities of Vrindavana and all the Vaishanvas there. After this he visited the deities of Shri Govinda, Shri Gopinatha, and Shri Madana Mohana and took darshan of their holy forms.
After this, on the order of Shri Jiva Goswami and Shri Bhugarbha Goswami, Birchandra Prabhu wandered throughout the forests of Vrindavan on an extensive pilgrimage. He saw the twelve forests of Vrindavan, Radha Kunda, Shyama Kunda, and Govardhana Hill. And as he saw these things, he exhibited amazing and wonderful manifestations of divine love. All the residents of Vrindavana were enchanted by seeing these demonstrations of ecstasy in Krishna-bhakti. In this way, after gradually visiting all the important holy places in Vrindavanaf, Shri Birchandra Prabhu returned to Gaudadesha. After these wonderful expressions of divine love by Birchandra Prabhu, his fame was preached far and wide. His divine opulences were nondifferent from those of Nityananda Prabhu.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saratswati Thakura, in his anubhasya commentary, writes that Birchandra Prabhu had three disciples who are regarded as his sons—Gopijana-vallabha, Ramakrishna, and Ramachandra. The youngest, Ramachandra, belonged to the Sandilya dynasty and had the surname Varavyala. He established his family at Khoradoha, and its members are known as the goswamis of Khoradoha. His eldest disciple, Gopijana-vallabha, was a resident of a village known as Lata near the Manakara railway station in the district of Burdwan. The second, Ramakrishna, lived near Malda in a village named Gayeshpura. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura notes that since these three disciples belonged to different dynasties and also had different surnames and lived in different places, it is not possible to accept them as real sons of Virachandra Prabhu.
Birchandra Prabhu’s youngest disciple, Ramchandra had four sons, of whom the eldest was Radha-madhava, whose third son was named Yadavendra. Yadavendra’s son was Nandakirshora, his son was Nidhikrishna, his son was Chaitanyachand, his son was Krishna Mohan, his son was Jaganmohana, his son was Vrajanatha, and his son was Shyamalal Goswami.